Saturday, September 25, 2010

autumnal changes

It officially became autumn this week and we had a surprise late summer monsoon to ease us into the season. The rains (about an inch at our house) brought temporary cooler temps but the cooler mornings are lingering longer even as we still creep up to the high 90s during the day. The light is changing, too: longer dark times, shorter sunshine hours which is a blessing, I think, for us desert folks. I remember in the midwest, I dreaded the long dark days ahead, the icey cold walks to school and the slushy slog through grocery parking lots. There were also moments of hot apple cider and cinammon dusted doughnuts, so my midwestern memories are dotted with gold as well as dark brown. Still, I prefer autumn in the Southwest as the mulberry leaves turn yellow and the black-eyed susans pop up along the roadways. I can go to the mountains to see red maples and quivering yellow aspen; it's only the dry stalks of corn, clinging to the clods of black soil that I miss most from Illinois.

As it happens, I will be going to see fall foliage up north, along the road to Flagstaff and farther north still to a day trip at the Grand Canyon's South Rim. Mark has a conference and I decided to tag along although I will have work tasks to pick up when I return. But it's worth the back-home catch-up to see the Canyon and spend time reading and gentle walking in cooler temps.

My ankle swelling has lessened and for a couple of days this week, I didn't apply ice in the evenings. I began to balance on my right ankle/leg in yoga tree pose, albeit only for 20 seconds. Still, it's progress and I am glad of it. My system seems to be adjusting to my new magnesium regime and so today I popped a whole dosage at once, instead of the half, and we'll see how that goes. My sleeping has also returned to pre Dad/mammo-appt. and I hope my counseling sessions and the increase of magnesium will continue to help me balance life's challenges.

This week I gave myself the gift of an artist's date to visit the Tucson Botanical Gardens,the morning after our late summer rain (and before another deluge at noon that day). Butterflies darted among late-blooming flowers and the dampness of the rains clung to the leaves of trees and bushes. At their gallery I gazed at a small quilt exhibit and came up with the idea of writing some essays around/about the patterns of quilts. I have two quilt books and I think there is a quilt show in Tucson next weekend. As I was doing my morning stretches today, I turned on PBS and there was a quilt show---so I think there are external forces at work that are guiding me to write about quilts. While I am in Flagstaff I will look for other opportunities to pursue this direction.

As for today, it's free museum day, thanks to the Smithsonian and I have ticket-for-two to go to the Mini-Time Museum in Tucson. I have wanted to go for months but the admission has been too steep, but not today. So after morning chores, visit to the Y, and lunch with Dad, we will go to see a miniature world.

As I continue to recover (5 months post surgery)from the ankle accident, I am also edging myself to consider other levels of health, aging, and recovery (physical, mental, spiritual and emotional). My past tendancy was to try to move fast into change, but this blog reminds me that "the slow life" is my new life and so I will shift down and pace myself through autumn.

Friday, September 17, 2010

end of the week

It's been a slog for me this week. I am still waking up way too early in the morning and with the added supplement of magnesium, my digestive system is out of whack, too. My counselor/psychologist told me it can take 2 weeks for the body to adjust to magnesium, and I cut my dosage into two intakes instead of one, but no shift to "normal" yet.

I went to a state housing conference for the past two days and enjoyed seeing former HUD and community development colleagues: learning new things about housing (in my new role as a member of the Metropolitan Housing Commission) and getting a better understanding of the grim economic cycle that we are living in, and will be living in for at least 2-3 more years. But being with others who are trying to make a positive difference in their communities does soften the blow of reality and I did get the feeling that we are holding each other up through these challenges.

We (Mark and I) attended (and I assisted in) another performance of Comin' in Hot with Kore Press. This performance was at the UA and included Veterans. Some in the audience recalled their female military experience as far back as 1971 and the recollection still brought them to tears of anger. It was very powerful to hear their stories and, again, I felt "held up" by the strength of these women.

During the week I met with one of my writing friends and reviewed the meager progress I have made with my creative endeavors. Surprisingly, I have squeezed in more product than I thought and two of the elements I want to change in my weekly schedule are 1) NOT start my day/after breakfast with work emails but 2) do my own writing and related reading for at least 30 mins. As the weather is cooling I also want to get back to walking around the neighborhood, listening to the birds, smelling the late-blooming flowers before I start my work rhythm. I have been fretting too much about getting work "done." Somehow I have lost too much of the slow life I was forced into experiencing right after my accident and now I need to recalibrate slowness into my daily life.

My physical therapy is continuing and today I started to "dance", i.e. move in rhythm to the music as I stepped in and out of the "ladder" that is part of my balance and strength routine. I was able to stand on my right ankle/leg and balance for a 10 second count although I wobbled back and forth (and I hold on to a rubber band for assistance).

Swimming keeps me sane and tonight I swam in the neighborhood pool, watching the moon rise in the eastern sky. How blessed I am to be able to experience that sight while bouyantly floating on my back. And I am grateful.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Of course, I am amongst hundreds, maybe thousands of postings on the 9/11 event, aftermath, personal impacts, current (and already revisionist) editorials. So I guess I am part of a chorus of voices, not singing in unison, perhaps, but still together in our purpose: to not forget 9/11 but to also keep living and loving.

I was heartened by the story in NY Times today about the owner of a t-shirt place in Gainesville, Florida who is walking her talk and refusing to make any t-shirts for the pastor (I won't use his name, I don't want to feed into his history-ego driven actions)who has threatened to burn the Quaran. Instead, she is giving away "Love, not Dove" tshirts and, with others, trying to reclaim their community's image as one of progressive, not regressive, thinking and actions.

Another article shared the story of a Muslim who worked in the towers. He and other Muslims had an informal prayer space in the S. Towers since 1999. He fled the tower as it was attacked and lost Muslim and non-Muslim friends in the debacle. He now grieves for the America he feels he has also lost.

Several thoughtful speakers on PBS yesterday, talked about the wound that will not heal from 9/11. It keeps "weeping" because leaders, political and spiritual, failed to show Americans a path to grieving after 9/11. In addition, political lassitude (the phrase used in the NY times) and private investment fears delayed rebuilding on the site, so that the scar has deepened, maintaining its hollowed, burned out image in the national psyche. These failures of spirit and courage, layered now with the anxiety and fears of the continued recession, lay down the ideals and historic beliefs of tolerance in the U.S.A., allowing them to be trampled by hatred and fears of "the other."

On the other hand, yesterday I experienced a dramatic production that demonstrated the power of voice and resiliency ( Because of that experience, and the thoughtful conversation that we had amongst the audience participants, I am not as depressed about today and events of late that have, in the past two weeks, brought me pretty low. Instead, I know that there are really good people, in every community, that have stories of hope and love. In one town, it's a lady trying to make a living by making t-shirts, in another city, it's a man trying to survive not only the memory of 9/11 but the reality of religious intolerance nine years later. We are all survivors of 9/11. How we rebuild the towers mirrors how we rebuild ourselves.

For my part, I choose, just for today, to be hopeful. To not forget the seeming randomness of death, but to be open to a deeper lesson of purposefulness and to find ways I can make my today purposeful for me and at least one other person my life touches.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

time in Phoenix

What started out as a mini vaca to see Cezanne and a Dbacks baseball game, ended up as a time to yes, see, Cezanne, but also to see old friends. My ankle was part of the reason for the shift in focus: even though I think I can handle walks and crowds, when I get close to making a decision about "entering the fray", I choose to be cautious and wait. Even standing in line for the Sea Life Aquarium proved to be too much pushing and shoving, so a choice to savor a brownies ala mode Haagen Daz while watching children grin on the Arizona Mills Mall carousel proved to be a better option.

The Phoenix Art Museum's Cezanna and modernist show was fantastic. It's there until late September so I encourage others to see it. Barnes and Noble offers a 2 for 2 admission and even a regular admission is well worth it. I discoverd Maurice Pendergast as one of my new favorites ( ) and appreciated anew Cezanne's influence on paiting, photography and sculpture. What if his father had succeeded in convincing Cezanne to become a banker or a lawyer? How many artists have we lost to such mundane but economically secure career choices? How many young ones are sitting at desks right now and turning aside from their creative pursuits to favor those paths which "promise" security?

In Cezanne's case, he was fortunate to have the means, finally, to pursue his passions. The idea of perspective that he turned forward (rather than backward) was new to me, rather its explanation was new to me, as so I learned a great deal at the exhibit as well as savoring the joy of art.

Visiting friends is another joyful experience. When I turn 85, if I get there, will I have the courage to travel solo for a month in Brazil, as my friend and mentor, SK, has done? If I am, when I get there, and I find myself facing isolation in a condo 10 miles from the promised beach ($34 dollars round trip by taxi), my only companion a Portuguese speaking caregiver, will I have the presence of mind, the fortitude of the soul to become an ethnographer and take daily notes of my social and political experiences?

If I am 78 and need three knee operations, will I suit up each morning for rehab so that I can reclaim my daily routine on the softball field?

Such are questions my friends' recent life adventures pose to my mealytoast ego. My anxieties seem to be produced by bad dreams (two featured drownings last night), family (or my) medical appointments, or the anticipation of a new project. I don't belittle my own life's challenges, really, but I can see that life has more twists and turns than even my imagination can conjure.

Cezanne painted almost 30 portraits of his wife. He did over a hundred scetches and paintings of "The Bathers". Such focus, like the courage of my friends, spins me into awe.

And then there is this group of nine women I met yesterday, part of the new project I am doing with Kore Press ( Appreciating the breadth and depth of experiences of this collective group gave me the feeling that I had just entered Star Trek's holideck--a place where I could only imagine being in a salon with such talent. Each woman spoke with her unique voice of identity and that harkened up the spirit of my Grandmother Dice for me. She was "formidable" (use the French accent, please). I think my mother was intimidated by her mother and had to find her own spiderweb like path to womanhood, but Grandmother showed me the strong spine of a female and I am ever grateful to her for it.

So I am so thankful we took time in Phoenix. It's definitely not a place where I want to live but it offers resources that, from time to time, expand my horizons.

Friday, September 3, 2010

looking closely

I read a short essay today (9/3, NY Times, editorial page) about looking closely at the small details of life. Of course, this isn't possible when a person is going fast or going with their eyes so directed inward they s/he can barely keep attention focused on their own, singular steps or isolated manuevers on the road.

My confession du jour is that I have been very inwardly focused of late, seemingly preoccupied, as soon as I become conscious in the morning, of the vulnerability of my physical body and so I spin into anxiousness. If I think about it past the morning newspaper (I am starting with the Sports and Lifestyle sections lately, and skimming the dour news sections only after I have eaten some protein), my awakening anxieties have been triggered, this past ten days, by disturbing dreams.

These dreams are about either my mom's last months of life or the projection of my dad's death. Not surprisingly I suppose, this started last week with my dad's appt. for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. His dr. thought he had breast cancer but it wasn't; instead, his mass is a reaction to one of his daily medications. My fears about his death were interlaced with my yearly fear of breast cancer. This year his appointment coincided with news I had of a much younger work colleague who is now undergoing breast cancer treatment. So I think I have reached my tipping point on fear.

If, as the book on Positivity claims, in order to keep my head above the waters, I need to have a 3:1 ratio of positive versus negative thinking, I am not at that level. I have to work hard to keep it up to 2:1 (skipping sour national, local, international news is a must) and that's just not enough. [NOTE: I just did the 2 minute text at: and scored lower than I thought I would 1:1--so that confirms my downward spiral direction.]

So I am trying to get my eyes turned outward a bit and the cooler mornings these last two days helps me linger longer as I water my plants. I am hoping that our planned trip to Phoenix will also redirect my attention. First, on the white uniforms against a green diamond at a baseball game and second, on the slanted roofs of a village scene at a Cezanne exhibit. In the meantime, of course, like the essayist, I can look at the wings of a butterfly, the iridescent glimmer of a hummingbird's throat. Even as I take time to gaze the at one brown eye-one blue eye of my faithful dog, Lia, I can absorp the attention and love she shines back at me.
I can do these simple acts of seeing outward, looking closely and maybe the scale will tip toward curiousity, hope and awe. That's my goal for the day.